Cautious creativity needed for Kevin Stefanski and Browns offense

Browns Wire

The Cleveland Browns have a vital game with the Baltimore Ravens in a few hours. The team has been the model of inconsistency this year but need it all to come together for the last five weeks of the season. Winning four of the five games, specifically the four games in conference, could be enough to get them into the playoffs but winning all five almost certainly will be.

The problems for Cleveland throughout the season has changed from week to week. Early in the year, the team’s offense was explosive but the defense couldn’t stop anyone. A few weeks later, often due to poor offenses on the other side, the defense was leading the charge. Then, all of a sudden against Cincinnati, the offense comes back to life.

The defense seems to have stabilized over the past month or so. While no defense can be perfect given the NFL rules and the talent on offenses, the Browns defense hasn’t been a significant problem lately.

The offense, on the other hand, has been. Injuries to Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, both starting tackles, Harrison Bryant, Anthony Schwartz, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb, as well as the departure of Odell Beckham Jr., have made it difficult to find a good rhythm. Against the Ravens, David Njoku is added to the list that has missed time.

Head coach and offensive play-caller Kevin Stefanski has also been far from perfect. While results tend to decide the narrative (i.e. if Cleveland beat Baltimore in Week 12 throwing the ball a lot it would have been a good choice), Stefanski has struggled to create the consistency needed.

Today, against a Ravens defense that shut down the run in Week 12, the Browns offense is in a difficult position. The Baltimore defense is good against the run and poor against the pass. The Cleveland offense is good at running the ball and poor passing the ball. The passing game is also lacking Bryant, Schwartz and Njoku today.

Stefanski can silence some doubters that have crept up this season with a creative game plan but has to be cautious. Last time out, a direct snap to Landry led to a fumble and turnover. Other times, Stefanski’s creativity has led to free rushers to the quarterback or runs shutdown in the backfield.

With a new starting right tackle, either James Hudson III or Blake Hance, and less tight tends than normal, Stefanski has to protect Mayfield and his talented running back duo. Can he do that while also creating some chaos for the Baltimore defense? Cautious creativity may be the key to a victory today.